Similar interview questions:
Do you have any regrets in your life?
Tell me about a part of your life that didn’t work out as you had planned.
If you died tomorrow, what would you felt was left unaccomplished in your life?
Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is looking for two things: 1) an honest self-assessment and reflection on your potential shortcomings in your life; and 2) whether you have a history of adjusting to reach your goals. A by-product of this question is a fishing expedition to see if there may be any sideline passions in your life that may prove to be a distraction in your job.
The best approach to answering this question:
No one has completed all of their goals or, for that matter, no regrets. However, be wise in how you pick out which regret or shortcoming in your life you choose to expose to the interviewer. It should be one that was truly a shortcoming, but has not had a significant impact on your preparation for your career (or at least a work in progress for correcting). And do not, under any circumstances, select a personal regret. Keep it professional. Focus on education and experience. Then talk about what you are doing to make up for the shortcoming.
An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
“Probably my biggest regret has been not focusing on my chosen career earlier. As you can see from my resume, my Bachelor’s degree is in English. At that point in my life, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do in my career. However, in my final year of college I met a woman who became an early mentor in my career. She helped me in both my career selection and in focusing my last year of college taking electives which would better help me in preparing for my future career in the insurance industry…”
An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
“Probably my biggest regret was not settling on my major early enough in college. I took a large number of classes in general fields when I would have been better prepared by taking accounting-specific coursework. So to make up for that lack of focus in my first two years, I have spent the last two years of college taking as many accounting and business courses as possible, actually taking more than required for my major. And I feel I made up for my late start by getting work experience through both voluntary work my Junior year and then my internship last summer. As a result, I was one of the top students in my major. It’s been a tough road which I could have made easier by selecting my major earlier.”
An example of how you should not answer this question:
“Well, I’ve always wanted to be a movie star. All the way through high school and college, everyone kept telling me I should go to Hollywood, that I would make it big. I still keep going to auditions, hoping that someday my number will be called. But in the meantime, I need to make a living. And this job is better than waiting on tables, right?”
Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!